The Dose: New ‘Harry Potter’ book is a big disappointment

The Dose: New ‘Harry Potter’ book is a big disappointment

The Dose: New ‘Harry Potter’ book is a big disappointment
August 08
21:23 2016

Amanda Dycus | Contributing Writer

@AmandaDycus

After Harry has an important conversation with Albus Dumbledore’s portrait in “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” he’s given this advice from Minerva McGonagall: “Portraits don’t even represent half of their subjects. It is supposed to be a support mechanism for the decisions I have to make. But I was advised as I took this job to not mistake the painting for the person.”

When you read “Cursed Child,” I advise you not to mistake it for a “Harry Potter” book. It doesn’t even represent half of this series. For many, it is a support mechanism, a nostalgia­-fueled ride that eases some longings and invites new ones. For many others, it is something else. While I have no doubt that the live production is a joy to watch, and the events that occur within it are interesting, this play is not very good.

It must be acknowledged that “Cursed Child” is, indeed, a play, and not written by J.K. Rowling. Anyone looking for the next “Potter” book will definitely be disappointed. The script was written by Jack Thorne, the production directed by John Tiffany and only the storyline credited to J.K. Rowling.

This story is decently entertaining, but so absurd and cliché that it’s unfathomable how the same writer of seven brilliant books thought up this jumbled mess. It’s rife with plot holes, ridiculous time-­traveling, random instances of magic and an altogether underwhelming villain.

The simplified version is this: Harry does not understand nor get along with his son, Albus. Albus befriends Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius. The two embark on a journey to “spare the spare,” Cedric Diggory, alongside Amos Diggory’s supposed niece, Delphini. They travel back and forth in time as Albus attempts to right his annoying father’s wrongs, and Scorpius, the play’s saving grace, attempts to be a good friend.

Eventually, it’s revealed that all the time travel was pointless, Delphini is actually Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange’s illegitimate daughter and Harry Potter must travel back in time, transfigure into Voldemort and stop her from changing history. Seriously. He just transfigures into Voldemort. Is that allowed? Why is Polyjuice Potion a thing, then? Why hasn’t anyone done that before? What is this nonsense?

The antagonist, the “cursed child” of two of the cruelest villains in recent literary history, is wholly disappointing­­ as is the representation of a world many have been waiting nine years to reconnect with. Thorne tries his best to weave Rowling’s signature magic into characters new and old, but falls short too often. It’s as if he was told a synopsis of the Harry Potter series, perhaps saw the movies, and wrote this script with that limited information.

Beloved characters become one­-dimensional, participating in plot points that contradict their seven-book-arc personalities. Within the context of this play alone, Harry Potter is a narrow-­minded father, Hermione Granger is surprisingly cold and Ron Weasley is completely butchered; reduced to a drunken fool for comic relief that’s rarely comic. While supporting roles like McGonagall and Draco are portrayed accurately, it’s hard to immerse oneself in a story when once familiar characters feel so unlike themselves.

It is with his original characters that Thorne finally shows potential. Albus, while flawed, is an enticing and headstrong lead. Yet, it’s his partner-­in-­crime, Scorpius, that shines as the story’s true protagonist. He is endearing, hilarious and brilliant­­; often picking up on things that Albus cannot.

Their friendship makes “Cursed Child” more bearable than not, and likely a pleasure to watch. They reflect some of the strongest themes in the Potterverse,­ friendship and acceptance,­ even when Thorne’s depraved Harry thinks they should be kept apart. The love and support they often express through well­-written banter is a nice reprieve from the rest of the story. In fact, the two are a more loving couple than Ron and Hermione unfortunately.

The boys spur the plot along, teaming up with Delphini to unknowingly fulfill a prophecy and ruin history. Delphini (as an accomplice) is not a bad character; she just falls flat once her evil purpose becomes clear. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare her to Voldemort and Bellatrix, with their rich backstories, but it once again pales in comparison to the “Potter” legacy.

As a passionate fan, it’s disappointing to see the ways things don’t add up, how characters react out of character or flaws present themselves in the endgame. In one scene where Scorpius and Albus disarm Cedric in the Triwizard Tournament, Ludo Bagman states that it looks as if Dark Magic was used. If so, why would the judges accept that and allow him to lose? Would they not call interference? How does this plan make a lick of sense and change history?

To be fair, you should read it anyway. Read it because it is, flaws and all, still a “Harry Potter” story. Read it because it will still have the power to make you think, to feel until you burst, to laugh, to cry; sometimes from pure frustration, sometimes from nostalgia. Read it­­ even though it’s not what J.K. Rowling’s classic universe deserves.

Featured Image: Harry Potter & The Cursed Child, Image: J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros. Courtesy

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2 Comments

  1. Cactus Jack
    Cactus Jack August 08, 21:50

    As another person who grew up loving the series- I thought that this installment got a lot of things right and was done well. While there are definite simplifications of old characters, that’s exactly what they are. The old characters serve as a vehicle for the new, and give people a behind-the-scenes look at some important moments of the series. The subject of time travel allows us to see what never was, which I won’t mention for those who have yet to read it. It’s hard to get away from our beloved trio of moscreants, but I think people will appreciate a breath of life into a series that previously seemed closed to us all. It doesn’t hit the mark every time, but it’s a fun ride that subtly tackles larger issues, much like the original series.

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  2. Johnny
    Johnny August 08, 22:18

    Great review! Really establishes a strong opinion.

    Reply to this comment

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